A delicate outline of a house has materialized in the icy darkness of Antarctica.
Like a child’s line drawing built at full scale, stainless steel pipes have been welded together into the shape of a typical house from a Ukrainian village.
It’s an art installation at the Ukrainian Vernadsky Research Base in Antarctica, where scientists and researchers spend months studying the polar environment in near isolation and thousands of miles from home. Since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, this remove has made the experience even more lonely.
The installation is called Home. Memories, and seeks to make the station a home away from home for the polar researchers. Designed by Kyiv-based architecture firm Balbek Bureau, the rectangular shape of a rural house is rendered in thin stainless steel tubes, with quaintly decorated windows, a shallow pitched roof, and a chimney.
Based on a composite of homes typical of the Ukrainian countryside, the outline has been placed around the hulking steel shell of a former fuel tank sitting alongside the research station. Lit from below to glow at night, the outline becomes a faint vision, like a distant memory only partly recalled.
The project was conceived before the Russian invasion, and its installation was delayed more than a year by the ongoing war. In the meantime, its message has become even more poignant.
“Now more than ever, our researchers want to feel connected to their roots,” says Balbek Bureau’s Olesya Sachenko. “We hope that Home. Memories becomes a reminder of home, warmth, comfort, and grandmotherly coziness for them.”
Commissioned by Ukraine’s National Antarctic Research Center, the project is an unexpected sight on the craggy, snow-covered island of Galindez, part of the Antarctic Peninsula pointing north toward the tip of South America. Researchers there are studying the geological structure of western Antarctica, the interaction of atmospheric and space weather systems, and the polar climate system. Much of their time is spent indoors, but Home. Memories is intended to give researchers a space to connect with the homeland, either physically or through the window.
The installation also features a small display of resin-covered items from Ukraine, including folk art, the branch of a native spruce tree, and charcoal from the embattled Donetsk region.
Few will see the project up close. The research station is remote by design, and visited annually by only about 4,000 people, including a dozen or so researchers who are based there for months at a time. But they won’t be the only ones experiencing the installation. The island is also home to a colony of about 3,500 penguins, and the structure was designed to be sturdy enough to withstand their tendency to rip things apart in order to build nests.
With strong welds and materials capable of enduring the region’s harsh climate, the installation is intended to be permanent. That is, Sachenko says, “if the local penguins, who are the true bosses of the station, don’t decide otherwise.”
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